Amazing how time has flown. I wrote this 8 days after Ethan was born, but he’s turning a month old on Thursday – I was waiting for a time to put the photos in, and apparently that is 20 days :-). Since I know family is reading this, I have tried to make it as ungraphic as possible. However, if you’re not into reading about dilation or cervixes, I’d recommend skipping this post. Also, of course, this is just my experience, and is not in any way encouraging anyone else to make the choices I did.
It’s hard to imagine life before Ethan arrived. Even though he’s only 8 days old, I truly can’t remember life without him. These past weeks have been amazing, challenging, and delightful. Of course, sleep is now at a massive premium and I can’t imagine how anyone goes through the birth of a child without family support (I’ve had my mom here until last Sunday, and my dad, sister, brother-in-law and niece all came for the first few days, which was completely incredible). However, before the actual story of his birth disappears, I wanted to write it down, not only for my memory books, but because his birth was a joyous, vibrant, playful and fun experience.
When I was pregnant, I read so many birth stories, and so many of them were horror, or at least, very dramatic experiences. I had no idea how fun birth could be. I also heard so many horrible things about epidurals, hence my intense desire to avoid one. However, the epidural gave me the ability to be present in a way I could not otherwise have had, and gave me the birth of my dreams. Of course, parts of it were completely unexpected, but what would birth be without surprises!
My labor started Tuesday night, March 31st, in a totally textbook fashion. We were at home, and I had been having mild cramps all day. I was 5 days overdue and starting to feel a wee bit desperate. So, I was absolutely thrilled when clear contractions started at around 5:30pm, first 10 minutes apart, then 8, then 7, then 6. I texted our amazing doulas, Michelle and Corinne, and told them what was happening. They’d been texting me daily to check in, give me coping tips, and helping me get through the last few very uncomfortable weeks of pregnancy. So, I was so excited to tell them that labor had finally started! I used all sorts of birth positions they had taught, as well as the ones from birth class, which really helped with coping.
At about 10:00pm, they advised I get some sleep before labor really picked up. I was feeling so excited, but decided to follow their advice. I was so upset to wake up at 1:00am, labor having completely stopped. I ended up crying to Anthony because I was so upset. There is definitely a certain time in pregnancy when you feel like the baby will never come out, and that was that time for me. After the tears, I went back to sleep and woke up feeling refreshed. In hindsight, I am really grateful I had that amazing sleep, as it would be the last time I had a good nights sleep for the foreseeable future. 🙂
The next day, April 1st, my mom (who had been staying with us for over a week – what an amazing woman she is!) wanted to make me feel better, so we went for lunch and reflexology. Reflexology was fantastic, and I dozed off to sleep in the chair. I woke up to thinking my water had broken! I wasn’t sure, however, so I called the doulas, who told me the main options, which included go to the hospital, or wait it out. I decided to wait it out, as I just wasn’t sure what was happening and didn’t feel ready to go to the hospital yet, especially as if my water broke without contractions, they would start a countdown clock for delivery. However, I decided to check in with my incredible midwife, who advised I come in for a check at 8pm that night, and either way, if contractions hadn’t started, I’d be sent home until the following day.
So, mom and I grabbed some lunch (a vegetable-heavy noodle dish which I regretted profusely later), finished our errands, and headed home at around 3:00pm.
At around 6:00pm, contractions started up again, but this time, went from 10 minute to 7 minute to 4 minute intervals over the course of 21 minutes. They were dramatically more intense than the contractions from the day before, and required my full concentration. I called the midwife, who told me to get in the shower and see if they slowed. Lo and behold, at about 7:00, they fizzled out again. I called my midwife one more time, and asked if I could skip coming into the hospital that night, as the contractions had stopped and I just wanted to go to sleep. She approved, so I decided to relax on the couch. I told the doulas I would be going to bed. However, within half an hour, the contractions started up again – and didn’t stop. As in, there was absolutely no break between contractions. I tried some of the positions we learned about in Bradley Method to ease labor pain, which had helped so much the day before, but today, and they made it so much worse. I was also incredibly sick to my stomach, and shaking like a leaf. Within 20 minutes, we decided to go straight to the hospital as I was in incredibly intense and ceaseless pain. Anthony was amazing throughout the whole process. My mom held my hand on the 30 minute drive to the hospital, during which I had 11 contractions. By the time we got to the hospital, I could barely move. We got to the labor ward, and I knew in my heart I needed an epidural and felt no guilt or remorse. However, the on duty midwife had to check me first to make sure I was dilated enough to be admittable.
She wasn’t the most empathetic person, and kept asking me questions and seemed very impatient when I couldn’t answer during a contraction, which were coming between 1 and 3 minutes apart. When she did check me, though, her expression changed. While I was only 3 cm dilated, I was 85% effaced and +1 station (with +3 being crowning and +4 out). So, that explained the intense contractions and difficulty – he was already very much in the birth canal. Michelle the doula arrived, and instantly was so incredibly helpful, getting me water and juice, helping me try different positions (none of which made the pain more maneagable, sadly) and suggesting a bath, which was a life changer. The nurse started the IV (which was also very helpful, leading me to think I may have been dehydrated even though I had been drinking tons that day). I got in the bath, and Anthony poured warm water over me. The anesthesiologist arrived quite promptly, and went through the disclosure while I was in the bath, as I refused to move under any circumstances. He was truly lovely, and patiently waited for contractions to tell me the risks of the epidural. If I had been more able to speak, I would have mentioned that I’m a clinical researcher and read the consent well before I was in labor, but I just let it go. Ego check. 😉
The epidural took about 20 minutes to kick in, but when it did, the birth of my dreams happened. Truly. When I visualized the birth, I really wanted it to be a joyous celebration of life. I wanted it to feel peaceful and serene. Perhaps that was totally unrealistic, but I didn’t want to visualize myself miserable and in agony, so I chose to visualize joy. For me, the epidural gave me the relief from the fear and sensation to have that exact experience. I was able to connect to people, I felt truly happy, and my body felt relaxed for the first time in weeks. I even wonder now if I could have dilated as easily without it, as I was so terrified from the intensity of the pain. Michelle the doula was amazing – she kept me hydrated, and helped me switch positions throughout the night. Even with the epidural, I felt the pressure from the contractions, could feel and move my legs, and felt great. Ethan was a trooper even before birth – his heart rate was perfect and strong. After the epidural was administered, the contractions got regular and strong, although they remained clustered for quite a while at the beginning, with three at 1 minute apart and then 1 5 minutes later. The midwife pretty much left me alone from the first check (10pm), and except for a few verbal check-ins, let me labor in peace without any mention of any further interventions. I tried to sleep but found it nearly impossible, particularly as I could still feel sensation, it just wasn’t painful.
The next morning at around 7am, the angel midwife Laila came in. Coincidentally, she looked so much like my dear friend Laila from college who is also an OB, so I did a massive double take. She was fantastic – so funny, warm and real. When she checked me, it turned out that I was fully dilated and he was +2 – so we were ready to push! I found this really interesting, as I felt no urge to push, so they let me hang out for a few hours. At 8:00am, my midwife Michelle came by to say hello. She sat with me and chatted, and was just incredible. She said she’d be back by lunch to meet the baby. By 10:00am, I was feeling intense pressure and was ready to push him out! It was amazing to be surrounded by such wonderful people – the lovely nurses I had gotten to know through the evening, Michelle the doula, my mom and of course, Anthony. Anthony really shone during pushing – counting to help me push, and being so encouraging. Pushing came very easily to me, even with the epidural. I was able to use the squat bar, and had tons of support and gentle encouragement – no yelling like in the movies. Ethan himself also helped – between contractions, he kept coming out by himself! It was amazing. At 10:35, with one final push, he came right out and was placed on my belly. Anthony was originally going to announce the sex, but it was a bit hard to miss. I said, “honey, I hate to break it to you, but it’s a boy!” Anthony had been positive it was a girl, but we were both overjoyed to meet our beautiful son. They let us have skin to skin for at least an hour. He was so alert, and instantly started crawling up to try and feed (I admit, I gave him a bit of help to latch on). The nurses all took bets on his weight, all guessing 7-7.5 pounds. However, when the pediatric nurse came in to put him on the scale, she said “woah, that is no 7.5 pound baby!” He was almost exactly 9 lbs, and 22 inches long.
So, that’s the story. Recovery has been fairly uneventful – I definitely tried to do too much too quickly, so had to cut back on activity until now (a month after) and am only now starting to go on real walks and feel myself. However, he’s been amazing – so adaptable, so much fun, and so precious. I feel so, so lucky to be his mom, and I can’t wait to get to know him better!
Photos courtesy of Anthony van der Hoorn and Terry BerensonGoogle+